“One doesn’t get used to their hideous appearance; one is never entirely free of a sense of unease. Some say they look like guardians of Hell or condemned spirits or dragon spawn"
When Charles Darwin arrived at the Galapagos Islands in 1835 he admitted to being somewhat tormented by the thousands of iguanas lying around. On land and in the sea, the Galapagos Islands give the impression of a diabolic Garden of Eden. The islands' tumultuous volcanic history of scorched earth and fiery flows are evident the moment you arrive. Inhospitable, Uninhabitable and Tortured are the adjectives inspired by the lava-sea-scape. If, however, one takes a closer look, this seemingly Spartan landscape is in fact teeming with life. Camouflaged against the rocky floor, marine iguanas are piled high, the most gruesome and fearful looking of all the creatures.
The creatures of the Galapagos are survivors of a distressed landscape, and remain virtually fearless and unaffected by visitors. As a visitor to the Galapagos you will swim next to sea lions, Galapagos penguins (if you can keep up!), swim over turtles and diamond stingrays and snorkel with tropical fish.
On land you will find yourself sidestepping over hundreds of Darwin's dragon spawn, as well as nesting blue-footed and red-footed boobies, sea lions, and scuttling sally lightfoot crabs. Giant tortoises, flightless cormorants, waved albatrosses, marine and land iguanas roam in what Darwin described as a "living laboratory" of evolution. The Islands are fortuitously positioned at the confluence of three distinct oceanic currents, creating a sea of contradictions, as well as one of the highest levels of marine endemism anywhere in the world: nearly one in four species is unique to the islands. In the Galapagos, expect the unexpected. Penguins swim through mangroves in the company of rainbow-coloured reef fish, while whale sharks and schools of hammerheads circle in the same waters as the Moorish idol.
The basis for Darwin’s theory of natural selection was based upon the observation of the adapted species that existed on the Islands and are now known as “Darwin’s Finches”. These species have adapted to varying diets dependent upon the different vegetation on the islands and all stem from one single ancestor. Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz is home to the Charles Darwin Research Station where researchers conduct scientific research and environmental education for Galapagos conservation. The foundation was founded in 1959, under the auspices of UNESCO and IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. There is, simply put, nothing else like the Galapagos Islands in the world and they undoubtedly deserve their reputation as one of the world’s great travel experiences. There are many highlights – sailing from island to island, watching the sun set from the deck of your boat, the volcanic formations – but undoubtedly the unique and endemic wildlife must come top of the list. Their fearlessness of man is incredible and allows you the closest of encounters with nature.